My honeymoon photos are ruined — thanks a lot, Target!

Alexey Laputin/Shutterstock
Question: I attempted to exchange a camera we purchased for our honeymoon, which turned out to be defective and ruined all of our honeymoon photos. We were told that because the camera had been on sale, and the item has since returned to its regular price that we would need to pay an additional $100 to exchange the defective item with the exact same model.

The guest services representative, loss prevention person and the team leader (who continuously told us she was the store manager) were extremely rude and condescending while informing us of this fact.

At first, we decided to sell the gift card we accepted online instead of a refund, taking a loss on the camera, repurchasing another camera from a reputable merchant and making absolutely sure that we never give Target another dime of our money.

But, in a last-ditch effort, I contacted Target through its Facebook page. I was provided with an 800-number, and after 15 minutes on “hold” I was told I needed to speak with the “gift card issues” department.

I spoke with a supervisor who told me she would not reduce the price to the original purchase price, since I accepted a gift card for the return. After attempting to explain that all I wanted was a simple exchange, and was unsure why that was so difficult, she thanked me for calling Target Guest Services and disconnected the call while I was mid-sentence. My wife and I will never be purchasing anything from Target again. — Tristan Caulfield, Memphis, Tenn.

Answer: I can’t think of any reason why a representative would hang up on a customer. Also, your request to exchange a faulty product for one that works is reasonable. The fact that Target had the item on sale and that it then reverted back to its regular price isn’t your problem.

But Target’s return policies are fair and appear to be evenly enforced (I know, because, ahem, I am a Target customer).

If you purchased your camera with a debit card, credit card, or have a store receipt, you have 30 days to return the merchandise, though there is an exception for holiday shopping and using your REDcard debit or credit card. If you didn’t qualify — say, you paid cash and lost your receipt — you would be offered a gift card for the amount you paid for the camera.

But that’s only if it was unopened. Here’s Target’s policy on electronics: “Items that are opened or damaged or do not have a packing slip or receipt may be denied a refund or exchange.”

Maybe no one adequately explained the policy to you, and then when you pushed for a product exchange, they simply hung up on you. Not good.

In reviewing your correspondence with Target, I see that a lot of the interaction happened either in person or by phone. Even a Facebook wall post can (and often is) deleted by a company. You need to get your request and a response in writing in order to protect yourself and establish a paper trail that proves you are dealing with the company.

You can start by emailing Target at this form. Failing that, you might try an appeal to one of the executives. The naming convention for emails is [email protected] — it’s fairly easy to determine the rest.

At the risk of repeating myself, I don’t have a problem with Target’s refund policy. I do, however, take issue with “customer service” representatives disconnecting a call. The employees you spoke with may have handled your request by the book in terms of Target’s refund rules, but they dropped the ball when it came to customer service.

I contacted Target on your behalf. It issued a gift card for the difference between the camera’s sale price and current retail price. A simple apology would have sufficed, but you gratefully accepted the card.

Did Target offer Tristan Caulfield too much compensation?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Lindabator

    I think the point here, though, is the one I immediately came to – WHY not check it BEFORE the big day?

  • emanon256

    The Targets I usually go to have always suggest that if I have other shopping to do that they can just give me a gift card and I re-buy the item. However when I have asked if I can just exchange it, they have always told me to leave my item at the service desk, and bring back the new item and they will process the exchange. I usually have a the receipt though. I just exchanged a clothing item for a different size this weekend. As I travel a lot, I go to a lot of Targets, and have had the exact same uniform experience across the board, that’s why I always seek them out.

  • emanon256

    Every time I have returned an item without a receipt at a Target, they always enter my drivers license into the computer and tell me that I am limited two 2 returns without a receipt per calendar year. They have been telling me this for 10+ years. Perchance did you not have a receipt?

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Once upon a time, Target was the child of the Dayton-Hudson Company, the finest retailer in the world; other establishments sent their people to Minneapolis for training in how to run a store properly … and treat their customers well, very well. If Target won’t exchange a defective item and make this guy whole, there must be more to the story.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Sounds like Target jacked him around quite a bit. The eventual compensation feels fair.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m not sure that’s legally correct. I believe that the store breaches its contract by selling defective goods and thus has to return or replace it. Joe?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why would you do that? You would expect an item bought from a reputable manuacturer like Target to work or have an easy exchange. Now, if you bough it from the “As Is” table, that would be different

  • TonyA_says

    I think the reason Costco does this is because you return upfront near the exit (or entrance) and there is no way to pick an item inside without going through the check out lanes.

    BTW when I lived in Memphis and later in Sacramento, I never had a problem returning anything at Target. They are an excellent source for kids stuff.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    haha. “Halfway through this crate of strawberries, I discovered there was something wrong with them…”

  • $16635417

    I returned a Wii to Target a few years ago. No need for loss prevention, store management, or the Pope to get involved…I just got my money back. I may be wrong, but I sense the version we’re hearing is a sanitized recap of what transpired.

  • bodega3

    Well if you don’t have the receipt and it is past the 30 day cut off, at least it is an option. We have sold items that we will not handle after purchase, period. We clearly state that all sales are final, any problems you have to deal with the company that made the product. And people still buy the item.

  • bodega3

    But if you don’t have proof of purchase, then SOL.

    We have sold items that we clearly state, all sales are final. Any problems are dealt with the company who made the products, using the warranty that comes with the product. If you buy solely on price and don’t pay attention to the store’s return policy, you aren’t being a good shopper!

  • bodega3

    Why wouldn’t you do that? Check it out, see how it works BEFORE takikng those memorable, once in a lifetime photos. Seems like a fairly obvious thing to do!

  • Dutchess

    It was the same day, and with a receipt. Michael’s has started doing this to. They refused the lady in front of me in line and gave her the excuse “It’s a third party company, contact them, it’s out of our hands”

    It’s all BS, If you have a valid receipt and you need to return something unused you should be able to.

  • bodega3

    I always ask a store, if I am new to shopping there, what their return policy is, if it isn’t posted where I am asking the employee. There is no law that in CA that makes all stores have the same policy.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Amen. And it’s not even just to catch defects in the camera but to familiarize yourself with how it works. I’ve known people who had difficulty working the autofocus from one camera to the next because one was a bit more sensitive. They got a new camera and were complaining to me how everything was out-of-focus. They handed it to me and it was working fine, but they apparently weren’t all that steady holding it and it was quicker to refocus than their old one had been.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Target will also take returns without a receipt. But since they don’t have a membership card to pin purchases to, it needs to be on a credit card so they can track it. A cash purchase means you’ll always need a receipt because there’s no way to verify the purchase was from them.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    For regular items I will agree with you, but Michael’s sells a ton of seasonal stuff and returns on seasonal items are a totally different ballgame. People will buy up a ton of Christmas garland in December and want to return the extra in January. That doesn’t work for the store for obvious reasons.

  • Bill___A

    This looks to me like the customer did not have a receipt showing the original price paid. It is unusual for a retailer to refuse to exchange a defective camera of the same model regardless of the price paid. I therefore assume there is more to the story that is not being told here.
    As for “ruining the honeymoon”, make sure you bring more than one camera. Anytime you leave yourself open to a single point of failure, you’re asking for trouble.
    From what I understand, Target is a fair and reputable retailer. Something is clearly amiss here.

  • Josh S

    When I worked in a call center, there were two reasons we could hang up on a customer. The first was only after saying something like, “Sir/Ma’am, it is inappropriate to use profane or vulgar language. If you continue to do so, I will be forced to note that on your account and end the call.” Usually that got them to behave.

    The second was if they threatened me/the call center/our client in any way. We’d pull out similar language: “Sir/Ma’am, we are instructed to take every threat seriously, so if you continue with your threatening language, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and I will end the call. As a reminder, this call is being recorded.” Which again, usually got them to behave.

    In either case, if the caller did not shape up immediately, we hung up the call. Dealing with an irate and frustrated caller is one thing (let them shout until they’re finished, then help them), but suffering threats or profanity was a deal-breaker.

  • Crissy

    It really sounds like there is something missing from this story. Also, did they try contacting the manufacturer, any camera bought will come with a manufacturer warranty for at least 30 days, often much longer.

  • Mel65

    My fave story from working retail was for a store w/ a “no hassle return” policy. A woman wanted to return a plaid wool blazer with no receipt. I asked when she had bought it and she said November. Mind you this is now JUNE. I asked if the item was defective, as it looked perfectly fine. She said no, so I asked “Why are you returning it?” She said, “It’s too warm to wear it now.” She got her money…